The great thing about First Night Morris is, there are so many great acts.
The troubling thing about First Night Morris is — there are so many great acts.
So when the Sheridan-Hausman MG team heads out to celebrate the new year in Morristown, it requires careful planning and a family vote on which acts to follow. This year, the common theme was comedy for most of the night.
First up was illusionist Anthony Salazar, who wove humor into his act as he and his assistant shared the stage with a twitching handkerchief, a flying table and a handful of brave volunteers from the audience at the Mayo Performing Arts Center. One young boy allowed Salazar to conjure coins from his ears, hands and beneath his arms, while a woman gamely pulled the lid off a basket purportedly holding a snake.
“He doesn’t have any venom in him anymore,” the illusionist assured her, “because he keeps biting people.”
Across town at the Market Street Mission, songwriter-comedian Carla Ulbrich engaged in clever wordplay and song parodies to address such weighty subjects as the perpetually missing letters in Waffle House signs (“The guy who changes the light bulbs changes everything.”)
To the tune of “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” she advised: “If you want me to pick up something the next time you go to the grocery store — put it on the list!”
Recalling working at a mall, where a store manager regularly escaped for cigarette breaks, she sang: “It seems really clear to me, doesn’t anybody else get the irony, I’ve got to start smoking if I want to get a breath of fresh air.”
She observed that some cartoon characters — like Spiderman — had theme songs, while others didn’t. Working to fill the void, she performed a version of “Wild Thing” for a melody-less marvel: ”Swamp Thing, are you a plant or an animal? ‘Cause I want to know for sure!”
She also reprised two songs that appeared in the 2012 MorristownGreen.com Film Fest, “In the Waiting Room,” with its litany of medical experts, and “The Copyright Song,” accompanied by a one-tone party horn.
“If you want to get your folksinger certificate,” she explained, “you’ve got to write a protest song and you have to play the harmonica. … I haven’t gotten very far with the harmonica: just one note.”
A few blocks away, comedian Moody McCarthy seemed bemused to be performing in the Freeholders Room. “Obviously somebody got a deal on church pews,” he said. “This is, like, where traffic judges come to audition.”
He also mused on family quirks, such as his spouse’s penchant for organic food and his dad’s insistence on videotaping family gatherings and showing the tape immediately. “You ever been to a party where the second half of the party you’re forced to watch the first half of the party? ‘Those were the todays!’”
He also lamented the passage of time. “You know you’re not hip when your car gets broken into and they don’t touch your tapes.”
Back at the Mayo Center, a musical medley capped the evening thanks to the British Invasion Tribute. As advertised, the four-member band played the Beatles and more, with fans dancing in the aisles to “Twist and Shout” and singing along to “Hang on Sloopy” — a bit of the oldies to usher in the new year in style.